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Challenged to Change

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Lesson 149 of 225
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Our Rest in This Life

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The Necessity of Abiding in Christ

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

We probably have never been in this powerful a position as a fellowship or a body of Jesus. I don’t know if you realize it, it creeps up on you so I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t realize it. But actually, we are in a more powerful and influential position than we have ever been, because of course, in Minnesota you had four and a quarter million people in Minnesota. And of course we touched only a small group, even through the television ministry. Now I was surprised, even though you are all used to it, flicking the television and seeing we’re on satellite here in England. But of course the bigger thing at the moment is, we’re all over China and have been for some years.

So every day, except one probably, in China the truths that God have given to us are coming across to Chinese people in all kinds of situations that you and I would never, in a million years, get into. And of course, you know how I feel about it, and I hope you feel the same, but it may be me speaking, or it may be Ada speaking, or it may be Marty speaking, or Greg, but it is us, as a body that is speaking, because it is because of our existence that all of that is possible.

So really, the life that is in this fellowship goes forth to, well you might say potentially a billion people in China, every day but one each week, and then of course now to Western Europe, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, France, Germany, right down to Spain and Portugal across probably to the border even with what used to be East Germany. Then you know too that we’re beginning to talk with the Finnish group about the possibility of doing radio and maybe even television into Russia and into the communist countries. And then you probably know that the little tracts that we do, are being translated and indeed probably have been translated into the language that they use in Romania, and that through the tracks the same truth is going out.

Then of course, you all know how many people we meet in our businesses every day. So it is surprising and it kind of creeps up on you without you knowing — and it’s good in that sense, not to let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. It’s good to be very clear that we are not doing anything, but Jesus is doing everything. But it is good to know that that is the situation, because many of used to wonder, “Oh well, in business how are we preaching the gospel? We’re not standing on the street corner; we’re not actually giving out the tracts; we’re not even seeing people come to the altar; so are we doing any witnessing?” And it’s very good to see that we’re doing more witnessing than we ever did before, and probably more witnessing than most people are doing today. So that side is taken care of.

But it really all depends, for the glory that it brings to God, on you, yourself, personally. I look at each one of you anew. It depends on you, yourself, because Jesus is in you and is either living in you and giving his own life out through you, or in fact, you are virtually a dead carcass and he himself is buried. So everything depends on you and your own personal relationship with Jesus and what your attitude to him is day-by-day. And the fullness of his revelation that can come to some little person in Budapest, or some little one in Beijing, is related directly to your own attitude to Jesus, day-by-day and my attitude to him.

I wouldn’t say that if that were just kind of a method of exhorting you or encouraging you, because it would be such a lie that I would feel that I am not even worthy to be your friend if I utter it. So I have no interest in saying that to you together and each one of you separately just to inspire you. It is what old Peter you said, “We are not dissemblers.” We do not play around with God’s

word. We do not manipulate it. And so I say that to you because that is true; it depends on your attitude and mine, each one of us individually to Jesus day-by-day. It depends on that, the extent to which his life is able to go out and touch the life of somebody in Shanghai, of somebody in India eventually.

And so it’s very important to see the basis of our reality. And the basis of our reality is the verse that we’ve often shared, “You have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.” And you are to abide in that reality, that you’ve died — that your dad may still talk about Marty and how Marty is over in England. Or your mother may still talk about Colleen and, “Oh yes, she’s in a group in South Mimms [England]; they’re Americans.” They may talk about us like that. But we know that that person they talk about and that they have known, and that they think of, that person has died and that life is now ‘hid with Christ in God.’ And your life ‘is hid with Christ in God.’

Even though we would often think, “Well Marty Overby is married to Trish Overby. And of course they’re very close, because they’re husband and wife.” Even ‘they’ are separated in that sense. Even ‘they’ will individually on last day, unless they both go on the same motorbike at the same time, they will go separately into Jesus’ presence. And they now — even if they go together in an accident — they will approach Jesus separately. Trish — her life is ‘hid with Christ in God.’ Marty’s is ‘hid with Christ in God.’ Now, the extent to which you abide in that reality determines how much of Jesus’ life will flow through you individually and from us as a fellowship — the extent to which you are abiding ‘with Christ in God.’ And that’s it.

It’s very difficult in a group like ours not to think, “Oh, Marty Poehler thinks this about our personal resurrection with Jesus.” Or, “Greg thinks this about our personal death with Christ.” Or, “Myron, from his preaching, thinks this about prayer.” It’s very difficult not to have our silly heads filled with all that ‘useless stuff’ — because it is useless, whether it is what Greg thinks or what I think — that is not where reality is. Reality is you in Christ! You in Christ! You and he have a unique relationship that none of the rest have with him. And he has a unique life that he has planned to live in you, that he cannot live in any of the rest of us. It’s vital that you abide in that life.

Abiding means remain in it, rest in it, stay in it every moment of the day. That’s what came to my mind in the prayer. I don’t know about you, but I have long ago decided clichés rule most people’s lives. And most people don’t think at all, they just speak in clichés. And of course we British can do it forever: “It’s very cold this morning, isn’t it? Yes, but it will probably warm up during this afternoon. It was a little colder yesterday but you see how it got warmer towards the evening. Of course, that drop of rain — I was so glad I brought my raincoat with me. Of course, that’s always the kind of weather we get here in England at this time. Oh, everybody else you know can depend on the weather but not us, not us. The number of climates in the world, that’s the number of climates we have in one day.” “Oh that is so true. You’re a very intelligent conversationalist,” as Hancock would say. And so we go on. But the worst of it is that those clichés are usually harmless. But it’s the other ones, “Oh isn’t it dreadful? Isn’t the economy dreadful? Everything, everything just seems to be falling apart. The world is just getting worse today. It is. You can’t trust anybody.”

And I thought, “Why fight it? Why fight it? Why not just let it go? Why not just let it go, because after all they don’t mean it? They don’t even know what they’re saying. They’re just passing the time of day, they’re just trying to — as we British say, ‘We’re just trying to pass ourselves.’” So I thought, “Eh, let’s just pass ourselves. Let’s not fight it.”

But you either abide in Christ intensely and enthusiastically every second or you don’t! And Christ does not believe those things! And those things are utterly opposed to the fact that he ‘has overcome the world.’ And they’re utterly opposed to the fact that the ‘Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.’ And they’re utterly opposed to the fact that he has promised that ‘he will work all things in our lives according to the council of his will.’

So I’m certainly with you, when the guy brings the apples into the shop and says, “Oh boy, isn’t life hard?” It’s not for you to pop out with your Bible and say, “Well you know, he said he would ‘work all things according to the council of his will.’” But there’s some way to do it. There’s some way to do it. There’s certainly an opportunity at that very moment to abide in Christ, or to take yourself out of Christ. There’s certainly an opportunity at that very moment to continue the abiding in Christ, or to take yourself out of him, and take yourself out on your own where you can momentarily negotiate with that guy on the basis of the world, and then we think, ‘pop back into Christ’.

Except that the whole word ‘abide’ does not suggest that. ‘Abide’ is a continuous resting and relaxing. It is not a popping in and out. And in fact, you can’t pop in and out. You cannot anymore than Peter could say, “I know not the man,” one second, and then say, “Thou art the Christ the son of the living God,” the next second. You can’t. And Christ implied that clearly to Peter, that you cannot pop in and out. And so that is just one little instance where God has called each one of us here, to face certain challenges.

We are not probably going to be tortured by some group of drug addicts in Shanghai. But there will be a second here today and a second there tomorrow, when the same challenge, exactly, will face us: whether we will abide in Christ, or whether we will try to pop out, and pretend that our life is not hid with Christ in God; that we are on our own, and we have absolute right, indeed responsibility, to behave like an ordinary worldly person, just to make the other people feel comfortable. And yet what we are doing is, at that moment, ceasing to abide in Christ.

So that’s why your life is really a very private challenging walk with Jesus, and my life. And though it is very important that Greg does the radio, that Ada does the translation, that all of us do our things. It is more important that in our daily life at work, and together, we abide in Christ every second. And the clichés are just one example. That’s just one example.

For me another example glaring me very plainly in the face is, the inner things that Jesus gives you a sense you should do. Not corny things, like wearing my left foot in my left shoe and my right foot — not silly things. Not all the silly legalistic things, that are similar to not walking on the cracks in the sidewalk and that sort of thing. But there are inner things that the Spirit of Jesus has come to us often upon — in my own case, writing. And in some of your cases writing, too, I believe, because we all have failed in some way on that particular newsletter. But there are things that Jesus quietly speaks to us about. Nobody else knows about them. And nobody else is meant to know about them. But whether we abide in Christ or not is determined by whether we abide in those words of his.

You can see that in John 15, he says, “If you abide in my words you will abide in me.” Well there are those personal words of Christ to each one of us. And if we abide in those words — that is not the total abiding in Christ, but it is part of it. If we abide in those words we abide in him. Above all, if we do not abide in those words we do not abide in him.

And that’s when our lives often go dead, and often seem to become uninteresting, and often seem dominated by the group; that’s when that happens. Our lives begin to be dominated by the people around us. This group becomes ‘the world’. Do you understand that, at that moment, this group becomes the world? This group isn’t normally the world, but it can be the world to you. That is, it can be an influence of human beings that takes you out of regarding Christ as the ‘only world’ in which you live. And so in that way, this group can be the world to you. And this group becomes the world to you when you die inside, because you constantly, repeatedly, resist the intuition that Christ is giving you within, about things you should do, or things you should be thinking.

And so each one of us has a very personal, living, alive, walk with the Savior. It dies and becomes dead if you keep on ‘not listening’ to his voice — which after all is what happens with ourselves. Because if you stop hearing a certain person speak, you really cease to know their personality, you cease to be influenced by their personality, you cease to be enlivened or discouraged by their personality. Indeed, many of us know that. I think we joke – we used to joke, Amy and I, because Mr. Huang [training technician at the factory] had a dear wife that was rather a nag. And so we were talking a little about husbands and wives. And of course, I don’t speak Chinese, so Amy was translating it a little. And we were going back and forward and laughing and so forth. And I had, I think, asked, “Well, I mean what does a husband do when his wife just keeps nagging, and nagging?” And he said something in Chinese, and he was laughing, and I said, “What did he say?” And she said, “Oh, in one ear and out the other.” And it’s kind of a Chinese belief that’s the way you handle a wife that keeps on nagging, and nagging.

So whether it’s a wife that does that or whether it’s a friend or something else, obviously when you stop hearing them and responding to them they become, as it were, dead to you. And actually you escape from their influence. And so it is with the Savior. He just doesn’t strike us dead at that moment physically, but spiritually there’s a deadness comes into our life.

So, actually every time the Savior speaks through his Spirit and prompts you to do something, whether it’s the newsletter stuff, or whether it’s with me writing other things, every time we ‘don’t’ respond to that we become more and more dead to Christ. Indeed, it’s hard to tell when the whole thing has actually died, but we can go dead. And the life becomes uninteresting. The life gets boring and the life then begins to be dominated by Myron, or by Greg, or by Joanne, or by Joe, or by the other people that we live with, because you were made to live with Christ. He is everything to us. He is everything to you personally. He has a life for you that is different from every other life in this room, and it depends on how you live that life with him. That is what the life that flows through, from him, to people in Bombay in India, in China depends. So it’s vital that we do it.

What will come about? Well he says, “If you abide in me, whatever you ask I will do for you.” The radio in China, the radio here in England, the radio in Romania, or in East Germany will achieve what it achieves only on the basis of one thing above all others, God working in the people’s hearts. And he has told us plainly I cannot work unless you pray. And indeed the Bible says that “Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us.” He is always making intercession at the right hand of God. And unless he is able to express that intercession through somebody here on earth, God cannot do anything, because then God would be acting absolutely independently, just by his own will. And he would no longer be governed by the free will of human beings. And he has committed himself to be governed by that free will, and committed the salvation of the world to the exercise of the free will of human beings.

So if you and I do not catch Jesus’ prayers for the Romanians, if you and I do not catch Jesus’ prayers for the people in China, then those people, even though Jesus is praying for them, those people are not being interceded for. So there is a whole ministry of prayer that Christ himself alone can exercise through you. And he can only exercise it if you abide in him. So it’s not a matter – that’s why I said about a certain Christmas letter — it’s not a matter of me sharing with each one of you my particular burdens. That really isn’t the way you receive a burden from the Lord. That’s the way you receive a burden from somebody else. But it’s not the way you receive a burden from the Lord. You receive a burden from the Lord Jesus in your abiding in him. And so there are prayers that are to be prayed in this chapel, and in your room, and in different places, by Christ, through you. And upon those prayers will depend the work that he is able to do through the radio. That’s it.

And that’s a whole area that we have a tendency to set aside, or to think that we fulfill on the two hours on Saturday. But your life in Christ has, not only direction that he gives you in the work the business day, which is absolutely full of moments now. Even if you just take that cliché comment of mine, can you think of the number of times now that a customer or a colleague makes some comment that you know has nothing of faith in it at all? Nothing of faith! And now, do you see Christ asks you to abide in him at that moment, with all the difficulty that that may seem?

I suppose if you say to me, “Would you rather we said that ‘he works all things according to the council of his will’ instead of say nothing?” No, I don’t think it’s quite that. I think Jesus, himself, will give you direction. I think it may be just some harmless little comment that expresses a slightly different attitude. Or it may be just one of those blind inspirations that you get, that will put the thing succinctly, and will be used. But it will be used by Jesus whatever it is. But think of all those moments — so not only to abide in them there at work and in all the other situations you have at work, think of the countless moments, ones that I can think of in our marriage, countless moments when one person asks you to do something and there are two ways to do it. We all know there are two ways to do it.

They ask you for the box and you say, “There it is.” Or, you say, “There, there’s the box.” You know, there’s a way that Christ does it, and there’s a way that we do it, when we’re not abiding in Christ. So think of all the times during the day when he calls us to abide in him, in the business situation. And of course, the reps on the road, I mean — it just boggles the mind when you think — because you of anybody must meet Tony Hancock [British Comedian], after Tony Hancock, after Tony Hancock, because we all play the same game in business, anything to pass ourselves and get on with what we want to do. So there are countless opportunities that we all have, to abide in Christ in the words that we speak and in the actions that we do during the day in our businesses.

But then, this whole ministry of prayer is the heart of the worldwide ministry. It’s the heart of it. If we were able to look down from heaven, we would see that the greatest part of Christ’s ministry through us, is his ministry of prayer. Now, you have a tendency and I have a tendency to either be surprised at that, or to play it down, simply because our prayer lives are hideous often. And they’re often absolutely governed by what other people are asking us to pray for. And so we say an appropriate prayer. But that’s not it at all. Christ himself within you has intercessions that he wants to make through you. He has a ‘heart feeling’ to give you for people in the Eastern Europe. He has a ‘heart love’ to beget in you for those people.

Usually you don’t put ashes on your head, and you don’t fast in a way that everybody sees. Usually

if you receive that from Christ, it is a holy thing, a gentle thing, and a sensitive thing, and a very private thing between him and you. And you carry that and you exercise it. But it’s what brings you in here [the chapel] when nobody else is in. It’s what brings you in to pray; not to come in here and seek God just when we’re in trouble ourselves, but most of all to come in here and exercise the ministry of prayer that he’s given us in this fellowship. It’s part — I would say the second most important part of the ministry of the business.

And then of course, we all know the third one. Isn’t it a great privilege? I mean, I feel it a great privilege — me; isn’t it a great privilege that we have, that the words that we would write — we pitiful little us — the words that we would write would be read by anybody, even one person, let alone read by all the people who receive the newsletter, let alone read by all the people that would read the little tract that we’ll eventually write. It’s a wonderful opportunity. And Christ has things to write through each one of us, if we will abide in him. And that we all know, means abiding in him in regards to the discipline of our time and so forth.

And that’s just the last one I would mention, that if the Savior gives us direction for our Bible study and our prayer, and we don’t follow it, we strangle him inside ourselves. We do. We strangle him inside ourselves. We are not abiding in him. And that’s why a deadness comes into our lives, if we do not abide in Jesus in the prayer times, and the Bible study times that he directs us to. We strangle him. And the tragedy of it is, you can go along, and seem not to have lost anything. And then like his parents, you eventually find he’s no longer with you. And you find you lost him back at the temple in Jerusalem.

So if we do not abide in him in his directions about our prayer and Bible study, and if we do not abide in him in his directions about our writing, our study, and our writing for the newsletter and the tracts, then we stop his life flowing from us. So he has given us you know, a very – a beautiful situation. Most people are wondering, “How can God use me?” Or, “How can I be used to express Jesus to anybody?” Most people are thinking, “What should I do with my life?” We have a life here that is already pouring Jesus out to people. And we, each one, are an integral part of it.

And I think by now — I hope that it doesn’t make you proud, because I’ve thought sometimes it’s easy for us to get proud or conceited when we think, “Oh we’re a vital part of something.” So I hope it doesn’t make you proud, but I think you do begin to realize — we as a family, I think, are beginning to realize, “Oh this fellow may be able to speak,” — or I suppose we don’t call me a fellow, but, “This pastor may be able to speak,” and all that kind of thing. But I think you are honestly believing and seeing that it’s what Jesus does through us as a body, that is what glorifies him, and that I am just a hand, and you are a foot, or you are an arm. But it depends on your personal abiding in Christ.

I know this is startling but, you’re not part of a team. You’re not part of a team! We’re not a team! We’re not a team! A team is a group that is governed by the captain and he blows the whistle and he tells you all. That’s not what we are. We are the body of Jesus. We’re the body of Jesus, with each one of you individually connected and directed by the head, and finding that if you do what the head tells you, suddenly you find you work together with this thumb beautifully. And you don’t understand until you realize, he too was directed by the head. And so it wasn’t you two getting together and deciding to do this. It was you acting individually from the head, and then you end up cooperating with each other in this situation or that. But it depends utterly on your personal abiding in Christ. Let us pray.

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